Popeye’s Island Adventures shows us What’s In The Box?


I couldn’t think of a clever subject line for this short. This happens, now and then. This week’s short is two minutes, 11 seconds, and is padded out with reruns. These include Scramble For The Egg, which is worth the watch.

Does Bluto need a sidekick? He hasn’t usually had one. The handful of times he has needed a second Wimpy’s done service. But Wimpy is this lightly supernatural figure, no more invested in the plot than any fae folk would be. But this is a short where Popeye-and-Olive-Oyl are on their own, and Bluto is on his own. The storylines are parallel. I liked Bluto’s machinations. It seemed like he would do well with someone to react against.

The short opens with Popeye dancing a version of the Sailor’s Hornpipe. I realized we haven’t seen Popeye do that in ages. It’s fun to see. He gets a package. It’s some kind of spinach-generating mechanical cornucopia? The purpose is obscure, but the instructions are baffling, and he calls on Olive Oyl to help.

The first iteration of this takes spinach through a funnel, whirs around an engine, and spits out garbage. The next iteration adds wheels and a chomping mouth. This releases a rampaging mechanical monster that chases Popeye and Olive Oyl to the top of the shipping crate. The music improves during this chase. It’s a bit more focused, more energetic.

That’s a good time to eat spinach, though. Popeye does. His spinach-induced body-transformative horror this time is turning his left arm into a giant net. This scoops up the contraption and hurls it out into the bay, and the problem is efficiently handled. Olive Oyl discovers there was a mistake: this was something meant for Bluto.

Then we go over to Bluto. He’s been attaching stuff to his submarine. It was supposed to add a cool turbine engine and chompers to his submarine. He’s got the parts for Popeye’s spinach-emitting thing instead. Once turned on, the thing starts shooting empty cans of spinach at Bluto. This knocks him into the water. And there he gets chased by the chomping machine that Popeye and Olive Oyl had assembled.

There’s a lot that’s likable in this short. I don’t know why I don’t like it more. I think once again the two-minute run time is spoiling things for me. Part of the fun of a mysterious contraption story is the rhythm of trying something, having it fail, and trying again. I mean, a Road Runner cartoon is made up of small jokes. It gets to be funny because Wile E Coyote has the machine explode on him, and crush him, and drop him off a cliff nine times in five minutes. This short is going that way, but there’s only two iterations of the thing Popeye and Olive Oyl build.

I wonder if it wouldn’t work better if they cut out Bluto, and used another twenty seconds to make another iteration of the gadget. But that might be impossible. There probably needs to be some explanation of what the device was supposed to be, and what happened to the thing Popeye expected to get. All told, I don’t know what I would do different, or if it would be better that way.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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